Strengthening women: 'Daughters in my Kingdom' is to help women in their responsibilities

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 27 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

Items from the Relief Society through the years will be on display at the Church History Library for an exhibit featuring artifacts and documents from Relief Society History in the days leading up to and during General Conference this September and October. Salt Lake City on Monday, Sept. 12, 2011.

Mike Terry, Deseret News

In 1870 — a time of general misunderstanding about members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their beliefs — a group of LDS women in Utah called a press conference and addressed newspaper reporters from across the country.

"It was high time (to) rise up in the dignity of our calling and speak for ourselves," said Eliza R. Snow, the LDS Church's second Relief Society general president. "The world does not know us, and truth and justice to our brethren and to ourselves demand us to speak. .... We are not inferior to the ladies of the world, and we do not want to appear so."

Reporters in attendance called the meeting remarkable. "In logic and in rhetoric the so-called degraded ladies of Mormondom are quite equal to the ... women of the East," wrote one reporter ("Daughters in my Kingdom," pp. 46-47).

More than 140 years later, much has changed for LDS women. Today they live in more than 170 countries and speak more than 80 languages; the Relief Society has become the largest organization for women in the world.

Still, said Sister Julie B. Beck, Relief Society general president, some misunderstandings remain. As did the press conference in 1870, a new book titled "Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society" will correct many false ideas about LDS women, she said.

The book, which in coming months will be distributed to adult Latter-day Saint women across the globe, was announced by the LDS Church's First Presidency in August.

Sister Beck said the book is remarkable because it was "written by women and it is about women." It also was a theme of the just-concluded general Relief Society meeting preceding this weekend's semiannnual general conference sessions.

The 208-page book is not a comprehensive history of the church, nor is it an LDS manual. It is intended as a personal and family resource to strengthen women and their families in their responsibilities, she said.

"It is an epic story and it is a record of the spiritual legacy of the women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," she said. "I believe it is a witness of women's divine roles and it confirms an immovable standard of what we believe and what we defend."

In addition, the book addresses some of the misperceptions about LDS women.

"Women have always carried an important and influential leadership role in Heavenly Father's plan and in his restored gospel," she said.

Women need "just a little taste" of their history and heritage to realize "what an important part we have as women in the Lord's kingdom," said Sister Barbara Thompson, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency.

Susan W. Tanner, the former Young Women general president for the LDS Church who is now serving a mission in Brazil with her husband, was asked to work with the Relief Society presidency to write the book.

She said while working on the project she came to believe the history is needed "to lift women, to inspire women, to help women know who they are, what their purposes are."

The book, she said, has the potential to "get the women of the world and the women of the church from where they are to where they need to be."

Karen Del Priore, an attorney, wife and mother from Salt Lake City, said being a Latter-day Saint woman can sometimes present conflicting feelings. "There are a lot of voices around either in the world, or even sometimes within the church, that characterize a woman's place in the church a certain way," she said.

The history of Relief Society provided her "definition" on her role in the church.

"I think what this book did more than anything was put my membership in Relief Society in context," she said. "I really felt a much stronger connection to the women who went before me."